Wednesday, November 28, 2007


An interesting exchange this morning in a chat published in Le Monde with Jean-Baptiste Prévost, the vice-president of the UNEF student union. A questioner asks why he, a student at the elite and selective Sciences-Po, opposes allowing universities to select students for admission. Here is the exchange:

Laurent W. : Pourquoi, alors que vous êtes étudiant à Sciences-Po, formation dont l'excellence repose bien évidemment sur la sélection (comme toutes les grandes écoles publiques), êtes-vous opposé à la sélection en université ? Vous empêchez par ce biais la création de filières d'excellence à l'université. C'est bien regrettable.

Jean-Baptiste Prévost : Je suis opposé à la sélection à l'entrée de l'université, parce que, notamment dans le cadre de mes études, je me suis rendu compte qu'elle maintenait la reproduction sociale à l'université. J'y suis également opposé parce que la France a besoin de plus d'étudiants qu'elle n'en a aujourd'hui. Nous sommes en retard sur ce plan par rapport aux autres pays de l'OCDE. Mais le vrai problème, effectivement, c'est de faire revenir l'excellence à l'université.

Now, what is so curious about this is its perfect and complete denial of reality. The argument goes as follows: "The status quo embodies a system of social reproduction. Extending the status quo would also embody a system of social reproduction. Social reproduction is bad. Hence we had better preserve the status quo, rather than make changes that would reproduce the negative elements of the status quo." Such is the syllogism, and as such impervious to the suggestion that change might also entail modifications attended to alleviate the unfortunate byproducts of selection. Nor does it occur to M. Prévost that competition for students among rival institutions might be a way to "bring excellence back to the university." And the fact that Sciences-Po has instituted a form of affirmative action to counter the social-reproductive aspects of selection seems to have made no impression. Prévost's protest against social reproduction would carry more weight if he were to propose effective ways of reducing its ills under the current two-tier system of higher education that he wants to preserve, and of which he is the protesting beneficiary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

by the way, the mosqt important pint he makes is that, in France, we nned more students, with, if possible, a better level, and not a competition which would prevent some people wanting to, able to (they passede their "bac"), going to university...